Hiring an Architect
After confirming that your property title is free, clear and legal, it's time to really get started on building your dream home. Per Costa Rican law, all applications for construction permits must be filed by an architect or civil engineer registered by the Costa Rican Association of Engineers and Architects (Colegio Federado de Ingenieros y Arquitectos). These experts will review your plans to ensure that your home meets seismic, electrical and other regulations and standards.
How Much Does an Architect Cost?
According to the Association of Engineers and Architects, there is a maximum fee percentage placed on each phase of consulting and construction. Generally, this is not a fixed fee, but rather a calculated percentage of total construction costs.
Preliminary Studies: Your architect or civil engineer must advise you regarding all laws that apply to the property. This includes soil studies and percolation tests, which are required by law. The fee for these studies may amount to no more than 0.50% of total construction costs.
Preliminary Design: These are the initial plans for your home. The fee for these designs may amount to no more than 1.00% of total construction costs.
Construction Plans: These include structural, electrical and mechanical plans, as well as architectural plans (blueprints). The fee for these plans may amount to no more than 4.00%.
Estimated Budget: During this optional, but recommended phase, your architect or civil engineer will provide you with estimated budgets for the entire project, usually from several different contractors. The fee for this service may amount to no more than 0.50% (global budgeting) or 1.00% (itemized budgeting) of total construction costs.
Contracting Advice: In Costa Rica, most projects are allowed open bidding between interested bidders. If you chose this optional service, a private firm will handle all bidding for you, including project data preparation, quotation receipt and choosing the best company for the job. This service may amount to no more than 1.00% of the total construction costs.
Technical Supervision: This designates a legal representative for the project, ensuring that every aspect of construction meets with the proper codes and regulations. This may be the same architect or civil engineer used for the Consultation Phase, a different professional or even a representative of the construction company. This is mandatory during construction, and all progress must be reported in the log book (bitacora). The fee for this service may amount to no more than 5.00% of total construction costs.
Administration: This is an optional service that includes technical direction (above; 5.00% of total construction costs), adding additional services such as project management, budget adherence and other strict controls. An administrator pays all labor, materials and subcontractors on behalf of the owner. A good project administrator will manage your building project with the same concern as you would. This service may amount to no more than 12% of total construction costs.
Inspection: This is optional, but allows for more project control. An inspector reviews the work of the technical director, assuring that all work is progressing smoothly. The fees for inspection may amount to no more than 3.00% of total construction costs.
Before signing any contract, practice due diligence: investigate the company, make sure that you have a thorough understanding of the contract's contents, and review the fee schedule.
There are differences in language, as well as building standards and practices between Costa Rica and your home country, so clear communication with your architect, engineer, contractor and all parties involved in executing your plans is essential. Always remember, good companies and trustworthy individuals will answer your questions with respect and grace.